KHARTOUM -

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen escalated his rhetoric toward Sudan, describing the two countries' relations as "not good."

Mekonnen, in a report submitted to the House of Representatives, accused Sudan of opening its lands to the Tigray Liberation Front fighters, to launch attacks on the Ethiopian Federal Army, considering the matter as a "declaration of war."

Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan inspecting the Sudanese forces stationed in the Al-Fashqa Al-Soghra area on the border with Ethiopia (Anatolia)

What are the causes of tense relations between Sudan and Ethiopia?

Apathy crept into the relations of Sudan and Ethiopia, following their dispute over the highly fertile Al-Fashqa area, in addition to their apparent disagreement over the management of the Renaissance Dam file that Ethiopia is building close to the Sudanese border.

The two countries almost entered into armed military confrontations, after the military build-up of the two sides on both sides of the border in 2021.

Sudan extended its control over the Al-Fashqa area, starting in November 2020, in what it calls a "redeployment" of its forces within the borders.

On the other hand, Ethiopia describes the movements of the Sudanese army as an occupation of Ethiopian lands, while the federal army was engaged in fierce battles against the Tigray rebels.

Regarding the Renaissance Dam, Ethiopia rejects the requirements of Sudan and Egypt regarding the filling and operation of the reservoir, claiming its right to construct the necessary water projects, without resorting to agreements concluded in the colonial era, which Khartoum and Cairo consider an attempt to control the Nile waters.


Why did the Ethiopian minister resort to escalation against Sudan at this time?

The statements of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister come at a time when tension is increasing between the authorities in Addis Ababa and Asmara on the one hand, and the forces of the Tigray Liberation Front on the other.

The head of the Sovereign Council in Sudan, Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan (Hemedti), received a few days ago written messages from Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, related to the relations of the two countries.

The journalist specializing in international affairs, Ali Mirghani, says that the statements of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister should be read along with the Eritrean statements that there are equipment from the Tigray Front to control the Hamra region, in preparation for moving towards the Eritrean depth.

The importance of (Al-Hamra), according to Mirghani, lies in its positioning close to the borders of the three countries (Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea), and its nature that facilitates the movements of the armies, which prompted the Tigrayans to announce that they had taken a focal point to break the siege imposed on them by the Ethiopian army, and then set out. To attack the Eritrean army allied with the Ethiopian Federal Army.

Ethiopia accused Sudan several times of supporting militias opposed to Addis Ababa, led by the Tigray Front (French).

Why repeated Ethiopian accusations of Sudan harboring the Tigray Front fighters?

Since the outbreak of the Al-Fashqa crisis, the Ethiopian accusations against Sudan of harboring and training the fighters of the Tigray Front have multiplied.

But Demeke Mekonnen's accusations are the first official precedent in this regard.

A source at the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who asked not to be named, expected the minister-designate to respond to the Ethiopian side, during a press conference scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

He told Al Jazeera Net, the response will not be far from the Foreign Ministry's statement regarding similar accusations previously brought by the Ethiopian (Fana) Radio to the Sudanese government.

Khartoum has traditionally denied accusations of supporting and harboring the forces of the Tigray Liberation Front, and earlier called on Addis Ababa to stop making false accusations against it without evidence.

In the same direction, the former ambassador, Al-Rashid Abu Shama, ruled out Sudan's involvement in any kind of anti-Ethiopian activities.

But he, the diplomatic expert, returned and demanded, in his interview with Al Jazeera Net, the necessity of tightening the intelligence work between the two countries, and revealing any plans aimed at disturbing the peace of their relations, with the importance of monitoring the entry of Ethiopian refugees to prevent the infiltration of fighters in their ranks.

Eastern Sudan is home to camps housing tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the war in Sudan's eastern neighbor.


Do the statements of the Ethiopian minister have anything to do with the expected filling of the Renaissance Dam?

The statements of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister come, while "it was reported that the countries of the eastern Nile Basin (Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia) entered secret negotiations on the Renaissance Dam, in the United Arab Emirates, with mediation from Abu Dhabi," according to journalist Mirghani.

Mirghani pointed to "the need to pay attention to the Emirati presence in the Fashaqa crisis and the Renaissance Dam," warning of the possibility of concluding a settlement in favor of Ethiopia and Egypt at the expense of Sudanese interests.

The journalist specializing in international affairs referred to news of the entry of the disputed Halayeb Triangle in the current round of negotiations.

The UAE has previously proposed an initiative to resolve the border crisis between Sudan and Ethiopia, through investment formulas that benefit all parties (Sudan, Ethiopia and investors).

Sudanese Sovereign Council Chairman Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan (right) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Reuters)

Can situations slip into the war square?

The researcher in the Horn of Africa, Hassan Al-Nour, believes that the statements of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister give a dangerous indication that the situation between the two countries could slide into an armed military conflict.

Al-Nour told Al-Jazeera Net that the entry of Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea into the war will push the Trinity to overcome their high-frequency internal crises by mobilizing citizens to defend their country against an external enemy.

Al-Nour pointed to a second reason that pushes Addis Ababa to wage war on Sudan, which is the loss of the rich agricultural lands of Al-Fashqa.

In the opinion of the researcher, all parties should exercise restraint and stay away from the influences of external parties to make the borders an area for the exchange of economic benefits, instead of being a site for direct and proxy conflicts.

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